Murk Rider – Exile of Shadows (Review)

Murk Rider - Exile of ShadowsThis is the debut album from US black metal band Murk Rider.

Three enormous songs, with a combined duration of 82 minutes? Okay, I’ll bite.

An album of depth, both musically and thematically, Exile of Shadows is black metal in only one of its aspects, albeit a primary one. The band also occasionally incorporate apocalyptic sludge and stoner doom into their melting pot, as well as strands of classic heavy and speed metal. This curious, (yet effective), mixture means that Murk Rider are to be congratulated for crafting a sound that may have these recognisable components, but manages to use them in such a way that the end result is more individual and atypical than you might expect.

In very loose terms, think of atmospheric black metal mixed with pinches of the other metallic styles mentioned above. Although only vaguely fitting, it does provide a starting point to approach Exile of Shadows from, albeit an incomplete one. As mentioned in the promo blurb, references to other bands could include aspects of groups such as Weakling, Evergreen Refuge, and Panopticon, to which I’ll also add Terra, Cara Neir, and Agalloch. Again, it’s a loose fitting selection of comparisons, but gets the job done in general terms.

These huge songs are imposing and monolithic, but also welcoming in their blackened grandeur. This is not an album of impenetrable darkness. Rather, it’s black metal played by musicians that are unafraid to violate the core of what some purists may think black metal is all about. This is a very good thing, of course, as it allows the band free rein to explore their musical environment unfettered by convention or unnecessary restraints. This freedom allows them to adopt the black metal aspects that they want from the parent style, using this as the overarching framework into which they skilfully incorporate speed and heavy metal elements alongside stoner and sludge ones.

As such, as atmospheric as this is in places, in others it’s also a hard rocking metal album that kicks out the jams in no uncertain terms. How do the band reconcile this part of their personality with the black metal core? Quite easily as it turns out. Just listen to Exile of Shadows and you’ll see black metal presented and delivered in a way that paradoxically manages to keep the core of black metal music alive, while also embracing outside influences. Yes, ultimately this is a black metal album of sorts, but it’s a creative and inclusive one.

Well-written, very compelling, and thoroughly enjoyable, Exile of Shadows has more than justified its apparent ten year gestation period, and is well worth the time investment needed to fully appreciate it.

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